Dan Froomkin of the WaPo does a good job summarizing the latest Fitzgerald filing on Libby, Cheney, and the annotated Wilson op-ed. However, I feel obliged to attempt to alert him to a possible misstatement:
Good job on the latest Fitzgerald filing. However, I quarrel with your characterization of Tim Russert's position:
Libby testified to special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald's grand jury that "it seemed to me as if I was learning it for the first time" when NBC correspondent Tim Russert told him about Plame's CIA affiliation on July 10. Russert has denied that any such conversation took place.
Tim Russert has certainly been clear that he did not know Valerie Plame's name prior to reading it in the Novak column; nor did he realize she was a CIA operative.
However, in his public statements he seems to be deliberately skating around the question of whether he brought up the subject of Joe Wilson's wife and her possible connection to the Ambassador's trip to Niger.
I suspect you noted this controversy last summer, since Arianna Huffington did a good job of calling attention to it. The buzz died down following Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby, since it was reasonable to figure that Fitzgerald, at least, understood what Russert had said.
However, subsequent court filings have called even that assumption into question - a bit of Russert's testimony was excerpted in the Judy Miller opinion and it contains the same evasions as Russert's public statement.
What does it mean? As a journalist, I expect you can easily guess the impact of a story telling the world that Russert shaded his deposition to Fitzgerald, and did in fact discuss Joe Wilson's wife with Libby.
But people interested in seeing that justice is served, and especially those interested in seeing Libby convicted, should be very keen to see this Russert ambiguity resolved before Libby goes to trial. Why?
Because Russert's testimony is not critical to a conviction of Libby on perjury - even if Russert did raise the subject of Wilson's wife with Libby, Libby could still be lying about having previously forgotten that fact, and he could be lying about having sourced his information to other reporters when he discussed Ms. Plame with Judy Miller and Matt Cooper.
However, if Russert has a Perry Mason moment on the witness stand and admits that, well, maybe he and Libby did in fact talk about Wilson's wife, jurors may question the credibility of both the Fitzgerald investigation and of the other journalists (ya think?). Having sailed past "Reasonable Doubt" en route to "Utter Confusion", the jurors may acquit Libby even though neither he nor Russert were full and honest in their presentations.
I think that the causes of both journalism and justice would be well served if the press would follow up on this. I have proposed a simple question for Tim Russert, although I have no doubt you could do even better at pinning him down. My suggestion:
Mr Russert - without any hedging about whether you actually knew her name, did you discuss Ambassador Wilson's wife with Lewis Libby in any way when you talked with him just prior to the Robert Novak column? Or had you heard any unconfirmed rumors about Wilson's wife somehow playing a role in the trip to Niger?
Thanks very much.
If it is of interest, I could go into numbing detail about my *speculation* as to what is going on, but briefly - my *guess* is that Russert shaded his testimony in order to avoid a subpoena and protect NBC News sources. I think Andrea Mitchell, who was working the Wilson/Niger story, got a tip or heard some rumor about a "Wilson and wife" backstory, and mentioned this to Russert. Ms. Mitchell did not hear enough for Russert to say he "knew" anything, but he broached the subject with Libby, and here we are.
If I had to guess at Ms. Mitchell's source, I would be utterly unimaginative and say this - Richard Armitage was the Deputy Secretary of State widely believed to have leaked to Woodward and Novak; Mitchell covers the State Dept.
MORE: I am going to come back with more on Andrea's coverage of the Wilson/Niger story. Briefly, in late June she had scoop from State about the misplaced INR dissent (on Saddam's nuclear aspirations) in the NIE; she sat in for Russert and interviewed Joe Wilson on the July 6 'Meet The Press'; on July 8, she told the world that CIA sources told her that Wilson was sent by low-level CIA "operatives" (a word later used by Novak, to great controversy); on July 20, she had a public spat with Richard Armitage, who was no longer returning her phone calls; and on Sept 26 she broke the news of the CIA criminal referral of the Plame case.
And of course, there was her famous Oct 3, 2003 response that prior to Novak's column it was "widely known" amongst the journalists covering the Niger story that Wilson's wife was with the CIA. She has since disavowed that.
Put it together, and we have a reporter who was working this story and was almost surely in contact with a guy at State who leaked the Plame news to others. *OBVIOUSLY* that does not mean Armitage gave it to her, or that she mentioned it to Tim Russert, but it does suggest that Russert may have a reason for his careful denials.